Woodspriestess: Exploring the intersection between Nature, the Goddess, art, and poetry.

Listening to the woods, to the stones, to Gaia, and to women...

In the woods behind my house rest a collection of nine large flat rocks. Daily, I walk down to these “priestess rocks” for some sacred time alone to pray, meditate, consider, and be. Often, while in this space, I open my mouth and poetry comes out. I’ve come to see this experience as "theapoetics"—experiencing the Goddess through direct “revelation,” framed in language. As Stanley Hopper originally described in the 1970’s, it is possible to “…replace theology, the rationalistic interpretation of belief, with theopoetics, finding God[dess] through poetry and fiction, which neither wither before modern science nor conflict with the complexity of what we know now to be the self.” Theapoetics might also be described, “as a means of engaging language and perception in such a way that one enters into a radical relation with the divine, the other, and the creation in which all occurs.”

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The Motheredness of the World

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Cynthia Eller in Living in the Lap of the Goddess notes that, “some spiritual feminists say that having a divine mother is a way of compensating for the frailties of human mothers, giving women a more perfect mother…” This is not actually true for me; I’m fortunate enough to have an excellent human mother. I am more liable to see myself as a mother reflected in the empowering imagery of the Goddess as mother than I am to feel “mothered” by Her—I feel like she affirms my worth and value in my own maternal role. She gives me strength and inspiration to be a better mother to my children. In this way, I then agree with the hope of spiritual feminists that, “this great mother goddess will have a transformative effect upon the social valuation of motherhood.” (Eller, p. 143)

 

At the same time, I am also of the opinion that Mother Goddess imagery may well be less about women as mothers and more about the motheredness of the world. In this way, I do not find the image of the Mother Goddess is exclusive, rather I find it exceedingly appropriate. Every person and mammal on this planet since the dawn of humanity has had a mother. It is a truly unifying feature. And, it isn’t about the socially and culturally constructed role, it is about the primal relationship. The root of life. As Naomi Wolf writes in Misconceptions while reflecting on an ordinary street scene and suddenly understanding the web of life and the universality of motherhood (even the squirrels!):

We were all held, touched, interrelated, in an invisible net of incarnation. I would scarcely think of it ordinarily; yet for each creature I saw, someone, a mother, had given birth….Motherhood was the gate. It was something that had always been invisible to me before, or so unvalued as to be beneath noticing: the motheredness of the world.

This understanding of the invisible net of incarnation is the foundation of my own thealogy and my ethics.

In his book Goddess as Nature: Towards a Philosophical Thealogy Paul Reid-Bowen stated that  “…the b2ap3_thumbnail_March-2016-004.JPGmodel of the mother may prompt reflection on the idea that everything emerges from, exists in a relationship to, and is often dependent upon something existing prior to it (a mother, world, nature or Goddess)…For thealogians, the model of the Mother is a powerful means of drawing attention to the bodily realities, connections, dependencies, and relationships that shape not only human life but the whole of existence…” Reid-Bowen goes on to quote Naomi Goldenberg, “Since every human life begins in the body of a woman, the image of woman, whether thought of as mother or Goddess, always points to an early history of connectedness: Mother-mater-matter-matrix. ‘Woman’ is the stuff out of which all people are made…” (p. 66)  Goddess as creatrix of the WORLD, the web of life Herself, is of much deeper and more primary significance to me than Goddess as “fertility figure,” as so often described in non-thealogical discourse.

It is very important to me that my children, particularly my three sons, are being raised in a home in which female connection to divinity is very normal and that Goddess images are all around them. I hope that their default symbol and system of belief as adults will therefore include the Goddess, regardless of how their individual spiritual paths develop. As an example, I have a book for children called Big Momma Makes the World in which a full figured, practical-looking woman holding a baby on her hips creates heaven and earth and everything in between and, “it was good, it was real good.” I love that my sons are growing up with this sort of imagery about creation. For me, Goddess religion and spirituality is as much about sociocultural valuation (or devaluation) of women and making a feminist political statement, as it is about lived experience. Both are very valuable to me.

I have been creating goddess art about my experiences of motherhood and womanhood ever since my first pregnancy in 2003. Following a significant early stillbirth in 2009 and a subsequent pregnancy-after-loss journey in 2010, I began creating a series of polymer clay goddess sculptures. These sculptures became a 3-D journal of my life with my daughter, and later became expressions of my spirituality that have reached out to many other people. Each figure either had a message for me or was created to express a message or a lesson or to incorporate some aspect of my identity or to capture a memory.

Several years ago as I worked on a new sculpture, my then six year old son worked at the table too and presented me with a special gift of his own design:

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“This is the Goddess of Everything,” he told me. “See that pink jewel in her belly, that is the WHOLE UNIVERSE, Mom!!”

 

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Molly has been “gathering the women” to circle, sing, celebrate, and share since 2008. She plans and facilitates women’s circles, Red Tents, seasonal retreats and rituals, Pink Tent mother-daughter circles, and family ceremonies from her tiny temple space in rural Missouri and teaches online courses in Red Tent facilitation and Practical Priestessing.

Molly is a priestess who holds MSW, M.Div, and D.Min degrees. She finished her dissertation about contemporary priestessing in the U.S. She is the author of Womanrunes, Earthprayer, and The Red Tent Resource Kit. Molly and and her husband Mark co-create Story Goddesses, original goddess sculptures, mini goddesses, pendants, and ceremony kits at Brigid’s Grove (http://brigidsgrove.com), where they also publish Womanrunes book and deck sets.

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